(short ambulatory notes concerning longer ambulatory thoughts…)
no matter where one spins in amsterdam, all roads lead to kalverstraat. the sucking sound you hear is the capture of "psychogeographical" drifts by a canalization of flows that has biogrammed from water to land. tourists and travellers alike may wander and wander and yet still find themselves emerging into this tight pedestrian corridor with its heavy flows and flashy storefronts. the sucking sound is doubled: it is also the money flowing out of collective pockets, from one drain to another. and doubled again: perhaps not the sound of money flowing out to consumption now, but rather its haunting forebear, which presents the street as a series of volumetric television commercials corresponding through brand semiotics to some future purchase in a more diffused breathing space. the second sucking sound is faint to our ears, then, since it is expressed in thinner air—from canal to liquid spectacle to mist.
kalverstraat is also good for gait surfing.
large grids meet "circles" (and their tiny grids within) at nassaukade. the wandering lines of the canal force their way onto land as gentle waves, channeling walkways, streets, bike paths and building facades. these wavy contours open peculiar spaces—somewhat straight, somewhat curvilinear—which for now fashion themselves as parking lots, tiny parks or bike racks. this is a space of transition for the walker, from the teeming and vortical fluxes of centrum to the more aerated grids of the inner suburbs, and back again. and forth, again: in terms of spacing operations we are discussing relatively smooth and relatively striated, but rather than a twisting passage of holey space between the two we have the multiple switches of the amsterdam traffic lights to meter the variegaited flows.
with the large windows that seem to invite a sort of exhibitionism or voyeurism at every turn, it might be easy to view amsterdam and its centrum as a particular geometry of glass and gaze, lines of sight in which all subjects have their moments of greater or lesser exposure. likewise, as the turns and turns of the downtown core vibrate in slow sympathy with the canals and ocean beyond, it may feel like a body is always in the process of falling forward or being thrust into the next movement. but perhaps we are forgetting about the sonorous—the musical ringing of bells that seems to unite vision with gesture and delicately fill in all those tiny aporias of perception, volumetrically. church bells to mark time, tram bells to mark space, bicycle bells to negotiate relation at variable tempos: the melodies always seem to be coming from somewhere else, and yet their tiny shocks are what suture together passage and experience as one moves through this peculiar city. one wonders how spinoza the lens grinder listened as he walked the city streets.
even if one isn't consciously seeking to purchase frequently as a traveller to amsterdam, consumption ends up meaning regular dealings in cash—perhaps moreso than when one is more firmly routinized at whatever contingency is called home, where its electronic transactions incur less of an economic burden in fees concerning permission to spend. this also means the eventual accumulation of coins in the pockets of those jeans or shorts or jackets which repetitively get their traveller's due. the accumulation is a weight worn, or borne: it doesn't take much before one notices a slight tweak in walking motion, a rubbing here or a slight heaviness there that imperceptibly modulates the musculoskeletal system. how do these subtle differences affect one's gait, one's walking through the city and the tiny eddies that fluidly swirl in the wake, microturbulent yet slightly askew from one's normative mode of ambulance? how do the gaited butterflies flap their wings just a little bit differently before the storm? or, alternatively: how does the topology unfold as spending lightens the metallurgic reserve?
a geosophy in progress, in process: drifting, dancing, or simply matching strides. the flow is flowing, thoughtfully and yet thoughtlessly at the same instant. a relational autopiloting of ambulatory praxis emerges, bubbles umbilically folding within bubbles and so forth as the whole thing perceptually unfolds. the neighbourhood backstreets are quiet, perhaps perfect for a walking dialogue in this sense. though they also perform a sonic buffering in their neat gridlike formations, for all of a sudden the grid ends its southerly course—or more precisely opens into a closing: here the great tributary of oud-west that is overtoom bends and merges into the roaring river of the a10 ring road. vast horizontal vistas, for the most part nonexistent in the highly vertical inner core of the city, now open widely to the wide open eyes of the walker who has ceded a relative primacy to the automobiles in transit. the river appears too wide to ford, the drift comes to an abrupt halt, shockingly, as if hitting a pane of glass—but the geosophy continues.
tempos. this is the watchword for walking in the neighbourhood of jordaan. perhaps more than the slower pace found in other inner suburbs, perhaps less than a vigorous walk along leidseplein or a dense, dreamlike stroll through kalverstraat, the main thoroughfares of jordaan offer a heterogeneous palette of fluxes to the walking subject. both residential and touristy, in this space one may walk with those struck awkward by the scenery or moving purposefully toward the daily errands—maybe chatting amiably in search of coffee or clustering in approach to the boulevard play area. a flock of segways passes anachronistically over a canal bridge, offering a new tempo to those which have already informed the city. while diagonal trajectories crisscross the street lanes or veer into local shops, the effect of this palette paints itself most pronounced within the narrow sidewalks that otherwise attempt to stream this heterogeneous mix into a consistency—not unlike the flock, or school, which passes by in the distance.
the lungs of amsterdam, both literally and figuratively, vondelpark certainly seems the most gaseous of all walking spots in the city. while well-paved bronchi weave and branch assuredly throughout the vast park as the primary conduits for multidirectional transit, it is the ability for walking-particles to become diffuse and mist out from these paths to the more vegetal alveoli that is of interest. contra the bikers, walkers and police vehicles that move along relatively predictable channels through these park-lungs, the more gaseous pedestrians are veering off on all sorts of vectors—mobile, aggregating and coming apart, informing and reforming anew. the movement of vision within this movement of gesture at vondelpark is intense: while the literal lungs of amsterdam attempt to photosynthetically restore a sort of equilibrium to the local green ecology, the figurative lungs of the city evoke an occurrent perception that affectively nudges the local machine ecology to disequilibrium and non-linear effects.
a mere shell of vondelpark, the myriad trajectories of movement at museumplein form a figurative resemblance to the mistified bearings and breathings of the former, though in a somehow different way. the walkers are slower, perhaps, or maybe it is the rounded gravel underfoot that only seems to encourage stopping when one is literally arresting motion with a photographic lens. motion also arrests itself in the large lines that snake between the square and museums, constricting passage to those hygienic portals we call the global art market or cultural history. if iamsterdam in this space, then perhaps i've missed the point about this city all along—or maybe i was too busy trying to forget about the points in favour of its more fluid processes.